Woodrow Wilson Academy of Teaching and Learning

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The WW Academy seeks to be a vehicle for transforming teacher education and school leader policy and practice at scale.

In collaboration with MIT

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In an effort to reshape teacher education for the 21st-century, the Woodrow Wilson Academy of Teaching and Learning and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Teaching Systems Lab (TSL) are collaborating to build a new kind of teacher preparation program—in fact, to reinvent teacher preparation.

Together, MIT and the Academy are developing new learning modules for teacher candidates to use in developing crucial skills and knowledge, or competencies, as well as creating related assessment tools and crafting new kinds of teacher practice spaces.

The WW Academy is able to leverage the resources and perspectives of each entity as they refine the program, employing cutting-edge cognitive science research and accounting for real world constraints and expectations.

“I think the fact that we’re not doing this as an isolated think tank is one of the things that is really important,” says Deborah Hirsch, the WW Academy’s Executive Director. “This is an opportunity to start something new that isn’t encumbered by any history, culture, or mindsets of this is how we always did it.”

MIT Academy partners collaboration

MIT and WW Academy partners at the 2015 launch (left to right): Sanjay Sarma, MIT President Rafael Reif, WW President Arthur Levine, Eric Klopfer, Vijay Kumar, and Deborah Hirsch. (Photo courtesy of MIT)

As the Teaching Systems Lab digs deeper into the systems needed to prepare teachers for the complex, technology-mediated classrooms of the future, they are able to tap the WW Academy staff and partner educators to hone their initiatives.

“It’s one thing to try and think about these ideas and another to try and instantiate these ideas,” says Eric Klopfer, MIT Professor in the Department of Comparative Media Studies/Writing (CMS/W), Director of the MIT Scheller Teacher Education Program, and a principal investigator with the TSL. “The opportunity to work with the Academy to instantiate the ideas has been very informative. That’s not something we would have had the opportunity to do without them. Really being able to refine ideas, test ideas, and try to put them into practice has been really valuable.”

By working in collaboration, the WW Academy and MIT are able to gain a greater understanding of what works and why when preparing and supporting STEM educators at all levels. But the WW Academy hopes to reach beyond just preparing the very best teachers through their programs. With plans to make curriculum open-source, the WW Academy has the potential to reach educators and teacher training programs across the nation. The Academy is combining its own findings with MIT’s insights to create a program built for and rooted in the needs of the digital age, essential in today’s global economy and society.

“I think the exciting part is focusing on something that is real, something whose outcome and shape isn’t predetermined but is being delivered as we go along,” says Vijay M. S Kumar, Associate Dean of Open Learning with responsibility for Strategic Educational Initiatives and TSL principal investigator. “It is a dynamic process in terms of outcomes—in shaping what competencies these teachers should have and what school systems could look like.”

The WW Academy is designed not only to prepare teachers more fully for success in today’s schools, but also to ready them to shape the future of teaching and learning in school districts and schools. In addition, the Academy’s own research and development arm, the Buckley Teaching and Learning Lab, will conduct controlled experiments on its own activities, blending in-house expertise with MIT researchers to explore what works in teacher and school leadership education.

“The Woodrow Wilson Academy, in collaboration with MIT, seeks to offer real solutions that will help our nation’s universities, school districts, and educators,” says WW President Arthur Levine. “Not only does MIT serve as an incubator for the Academy, but the Academy also serves as a lab for MIT.”

By utilizing the resources of the TSL, involving experienced educators in the design process, and pursuing innovative new methods of teaching content and measuring mastery, the WW Academy looks to set the standard for teacher preparation in the 21st-century.

“This collaboration resonates with MIT’s own goals and provides a foundation from which to reshape education.” said MIT President L. Rafael Reif. “It is a perfect pairing of our shared commitment to access and to experiential learning.”